On Government and Accountability

In 1987, former Secretary of Labor Raymond Donovan and six other defendants were brought to trial in a New York City court for fraud. When the jury cleared everyone of all charges, Donovan famously asked: "Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?"

The answer, which he well knew, was none. He had been screwed by the government, and that was the end of it. That is but one type of screwing that the government administers when it has a mind to. Another one was visited on a gunmaker friend of mine last year.

He held a license to manufacture, and in the past, BATFE had sent him a new license automatically and all he had to do was pay them. Last year, for whatever reason, they didn't, and no one at the shop thought to call and ask for a renewal. They learned about it when the Bureau informed them that their license to manufacture had expired, and that they were to cease and desist operation. They could have simply sent him a renewal with a note to pay better attention in future; but that is not the government way.

And so my friend shut down for a month, which was the amount of time the BATFE made him dance until he got his new license. And that 30 days cost him $760,000. He was never fined; no judgment was levied against him; there was no official penalty. But he is still three-quarters of a million dollars poorer and so are his dozen or so employees, who had no part in any of this.

To which office does he go to his money back? Probably the same one Ray Donovan went to for his reputation. He could conceivably go to court and sue the BATFE, but that would cost him even more in money and time.

Just another episode in this land of government of the people, by the people, for the people.